Category: Cloud

Disaster recovery is one way to lead your customers to the cloud conversation.

Courting Customers with a Colocation-to-Cloud Strategy

Disaster recovery is one way to lead your customers to the cloud conversation.If your clients aren’t quite ready for cloud, here’s how can you help them go hybrid.

As cloud technology continues to evolve at an incredible rate, many businesses are eager to make the most of remote services and management tools. Some companies, however, are reluctant to upend their existing infrastructure for unfamiliar options. While this can present a serious struggle for agents seeking to bring their customers up to speed, it also opens the door for a conversation about a colocation-to-cloud strategy. And according to Sean Patrick Tario, trainer and VP of the new Cloud Elements Division for MicroCorp, disaster recovery serves as an ideal starting point.

“Many companies don’t have a disaster recovery program in place,” says Tario. “They might have backup, but backup isn’t disaster recovery. If your site goes down, backup means you don’t lose all your data. But with disaster recovery, if your site goes down, it will not stay down for very long, if at all.”

For most companies that own their infrastructure and have it colocated, this presents an opportunity for agents to talk about hosted disaster recovery, which is attractive to businesses because it removes the costly need for physical hardware upgrades. Once an agent starts talking to customers and walking them through how hosted disaster recovery works, that gets them thinking about what other applications can be hosted. And that’s why it’s crucial for agents to be aware of the applications and systems architecture their clients have in place.

“If an agent isn’t talking to their customers about what applications their business is running, they’re never going to get into any kind of cloud conversation,” says Tario. “You have to understand which applications they’re running 24/7/365, and, from there, you can piecemeal which data and applications can be hosted elsewhere versus owned. That’s the ideal way to begin this cloud conversation with a customer.”

Most companies already use Gmail, Salesforce, or Office 365, so they’re already operating a  hybrid environment to some extent. This offers another avenue into the cloud conversation and a discussion about which applications can be hosted elsewhere and which should remain on-premises. “Those are the kinds of key conversations we train agents to have with customers,” says Tario. “We give them a comfort level to start digging down these rabbit holes.”

Another important area to assess is a company’s total cost of ownership. If a company truly wants to cut costs, this is a conversation that must involve where applications are hosted.

“If a company is using physical gear in a colocation environment,” says Tario, “then those servers, switches, and routers are likely a couple of years old and ready for a hardware refresh. And if the customer is looking to do a hardware refresh, you should ask them if they’d consider saving a couple hundred thousands dollars on hardware, and instead renting or leasing that equipment for a fraction of the cost. Then tell them that’s exactly what a hosted environment is.”

Tario also reminds partners that it’s not only companies that pose challenges to a colocation-to-cloud conversation. Fear and insecurity also often prevent partners from pitching the cloud.

“Many partners fear not understanding or knowing what options are out there,” says Tario, “or they’re intimidated by the terminology and unfamiliar with all the acronyms. They’re hesitant to start talking about things they aren’t familiar with, because if a customer asks a question they don’t know the answer to, many partners will want to make something up. The correct answer to give, however, is: ‘That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer, but we have a dedicated team of engineers and solution architects that specialize in the cloud hosting environment, and I’d love to engage with them to have this conversation with you.’

That’s where MicroCorp’s Cloud Elements division comes in. This team specializes in asking customers insightful questions about their specific situations, so they can do due-diligence to determine which service providers offer the most appropriate solutions.

“Unfortunately, we see agents get convinced by some service providers that present themselves as end-all, be-all hosted solutions,” says Tario. “These providers tell agents that if they come across any hybrid opportunities, they should throw them over the fence and let the provider close the deal. In reality, these providers will try to sell clients pre-packaged services, even though those services might not be the ideal solution for the customer.”

That’s why MicroCorp promotes a different approach.

“Partners are doing their customers a disservice by simply throwing the client to the provider for the most critical solutions engineering part of the conversation,” says Tario. “We teach agents to not simply flip opportunities over the fence to a provider. We prefer they engage our Cloud Elements team to do the front-end consulting before they bring in a provider, because this is hands down what is in the best interests of the client and the agent’s long term commission revenue stream.”

There are many ways to approach a colocation-to-cloud conversation with your clients. Hopefully, Sean’s insights can help you more effective position cloud solutions to your customers. Contact MicroCorp and Sean today to learn more.

What do changes in the cloud mean for your business and that of your customers?

Five Big New Predictions for the Cloud in 2018

What do changes in the cloud mean for your business and that of your customers?If 2017 seemed like a big year for cloud to you, there’s a good reason: it was a big year for cloud. What’s more, there’s every sign that 2018 will be just as big and maybe even bigger. So big, in fact, that new predictions about the cloud have started emerging on several fronts. Which of these predictions should you watch for? What will cloud possibly do for—or even to—your business? Check out some of these predictions and start getting your plans for 2018 in cloud in place.

What’s Ahead for the Cloud in 2018?

Thanks in large part to its versatility, there’s a lot to consider about the cloud to come. Good news, bad news, and general changes in the landscape are all part of what’s to come.

A more personal cloud. While businesses have increasingly found value in cloud-based operations, there’s another side of the cloud coin to consider: customer-facing applications. Regular people increasingly desire cloud applications not only for work-related tasks, but also for after-hours fun and living. Development should therefore accelerate on that front.

Microservices architecture will gain. Container orchestration will prove a growing part of the cloud industry. With containers hot, new applications developers will increasingly work in a microservices framework. Cross-cloud container dominance will prompt developers to focus on open cloud stacks to prevent a chance at vendor lock-in.

Cloud sprawl on the rise. Vendor lock-in will terrify businesses to the point they will diversify rapidly. The problem with that, however, is that it may ultimately produce multiple clouds’ worth of data siloing, and that will require new management techniques executed at the human level.

Traffic will shift. Enterprise users are expected to shift as much as 10 percent from carrier backbones to other operations, and that’s going to put new weight on telecom operators as they scramble to absorb the impact of a lot of extra traffic.

Skills shortages will erupt. Cloud technology skills are likely to prove especially prized and often in short supply. Businesses that can’t attract new talent will need to focus on internal training, a slower but reliable method of having skills in place.

How Do I Prepare for All These Cloud Changes?

Getting ready for the cloud and all its changes may be simpler than you think. MicroCorp’s Ultimate Partner Training is the industry’s best way to prepare for these new developments. Just drop us a line to learn more.

Cloud technologies have been both a boon and a bane to some industries.

Threats and Opportunities: The Cloud and Technology Adoption

Cloud technologies have been both a boon and a bane to some industries.Cloud technology has opened up a slate of new possibilities, but it’s also created significant new threats for regular users and enterprise users alike. Any value-added reseller (VAR), managed service provider (MSP) or sales agent targeting the enterprise market, therefore, needs to know just what to watch out for and what to encourage to provide solutions in this increasingly cloud-based environment.

What New Opportunities Have Emerged With the Cloud?

The cloud has brought great new opportunities for businesses that are tailor-made for solution providers.

Broader talent pool. Businesses now no longer need only hire people in the city in which they operate. Cloud-based document management and communications systems let anyone work from anywhere, if they have access to the tools.

Greater agility. Those who can work anywhere can work any time, too. Plus, access to systems resources that scale with need mean that projects that need more computing resources can get these without bulky, costly, and time-consuming installations.

New business. Consider the companies that would be nowhere without the cloud. Most streaming services count on it, and document storage operations can keep those documents secure in the cloud.

What New Threats do Businesses Face Thanks to the Cloud?

All of these advances haven’t come without threats to address, and that’s opportunity for the astute solution provider.

Security. This is commonly the big one. The information kept in the cloud is a valuable target for thieves, and from theft of customer data to theft of intellectual property, cloud security is one of the biggest risks there is.

Loss of visibility. A cloud is often opaque by its nature, and cloud computing is no different. It’s often hard to track information once it goes into the cloud. Those working remotely with cloud-based tools can’t be watched. Visibility is lost.

System performance. There’s a reason cloud-based systems come with service-level agreements (SLAs). Whether it’s the hardware at the user’s end or the hardware at the provider’s end, system performance has to be at its peak to provide the best cloud experience.

How Can I Provide Technology that Best Works With the Cloud?

The best way to provide technology that both works with the cloud and protects against the new threats seen previously is to start by getting in touch with MicroCorp. With over 30 years’ experience in partner support for VARs, MSPs and agent operations, this master agent can not only delivery the best in solutions but also top-level support.

Provide a balanced case for adopting a move to the cloud and increase your buy-in on the project with anticipated ROI.

When Presenting a Move to the Cloud, Provide a Balanced Case

Provide a balanced case for adopting a move to the cloud and increase your buy-in on the project with anticipated ROI.You’ve determined that a move to the cloud is in your company’s best interests, but now you have to sell it to the decision-makers. You may be tempted to start your presentation off right away by discussing the expected benefits from housing your solutions in the cloud, like flexibility, agility, performance, cost savings, and scalability. But your executives also want to know the return on investment (ROI), so be ready to discuss it in order to get buy-in on your transition.

Determine the cost of ownership for your on-premises option. While estimating the ROI of your on-premises solution may not be precise, it will still put cloud investment in perspective. There are three key pieces of information you should gather first:

  • The cost of the necessary equipment
  • The projected lifespan of the solution
  • The cost of capital (how much you could expect to earn if you invested that money elsewhere)

Next, gather information about your operating expenses:

  • Floor space
  • Staff to monitor and administer servers
  • Electricity
  • Security and backup services

Add up these costs and divide them by the projected lifespan of your equipment to estimate the monthly cost of ownership for an on-premises system.

Explain the value that the organization will gain from the cloud. There are a multitude of benefits you could discuss, but it’s important to talk about the financial gains that improve the overall ROI in a cloud transition versus an on-premises solution. There are several areas that will impact your cost savings in the cloud:

  • Less IT maintenance
  • Categorization of software subscriptions as operating expenses versus capital investments
  • No investment in hardware
  • Scalability and flexibility
  • Improved performance

Have a plan for controlling cloud costs. While it may be impossible to produce exact numbers for your ROI, you’ll gain more fans in the board room if you have a solid plan for controlling costs. For instance, how will your cloud solution handle cold data storage and how much will it cost to retrieve and rehydrate that cold data? It’s also good to have a plan for areas like cloud bursting and shadow IT. Determining the costs of migration will also prevent surprises when it comes to the total cost of ownership for a cloud solution.

At MicroCorp, we’re always ready to collaborate and innovate. We are committed to your success and would love to talk more about your cloud migration and find out how we can help. Contact us today to get started.

What are the Security Benefits of a Multi-Cloud Solution?

Learn about how disaster recovery, cloud storage, and more can help improve your cyber security.A multi-cloud approach works well for a large number of enterprises who’ve made a digital transformation. RightScale’s 2017 State of the Cloud Report found that 85 percent have a multi-cloud strategy. That is up from 2016 where 82 percent reported a multi-cloud approach.

There are several benefits to implementing a multi-cloud solution:

  • Disaster recovery: A cloud outage serves to demonstrate the potential pitfalls of a single cloud solution. Many companies haven’t fully thought through their disaster-recovery procedures, but multi-cloud does offer protection compared to a single point failure.
  • Prevention of lock-in: Enterprises are reluctant to lock in with only one vendor, and multi-cloud approach allows them the flexibility to switch vendors or take advantage of the benefits of each of a variety of vendors.
  • Workload performance: Enterprises like the ability to match the workload with the cloud provider that makes the most sense. For instance, Windows applications workloads match best with Microsoft Azure.
  • Cloud hydration: One of the challenges of digital transformation is the movement of data from traditional storage to cloud storage. A multi-cloud environment makes it easier to concurrently move data to new cloud platforms.

A couple of major, multi-hour cloud outages that occurred this year provided some guidelines for establishing an even better, more secure multi-cloud solution:

Store data in two locations. In case of a cloud outage, it’s a good idea to store data in two places so that you are never fully compromised on your ability to access data. There are several approaches to this, such as storing data both in a cloud storage solution and an on-premises server, or you can use a single-cloud solution with multiple access points.

Choose redundancy architecture: Duplicate your major applications in multiple locations. Whether you are employing public or private cloud, a hybrid solution or an on-site system, consider implementing redundancy policies so that you avoid lock-in with one provider or the risk of not being able to access your key software during an outage.

Check out the competition: Check out their competition, not yours. The increase in cloud providers means that you can use a multi-cloud solution to choose the applications that make the most sense for you, based on both cost and security features of the provider.

Choose native storage options: This means that you want to choose providers and storage solutions in which storage is a core feature, not an additional feature that’s “bolted on” to another application.

At MicroCorp, we come alongside you to help you design a secure multi-cloud environment that matches providers to your specific business needs. Call us today for more information.

Cloud: How It Changed Itself, and Us

How have cloud services changed the way that channel partners do business?Today’s cloud environment has picked up steam from a “customer acceptance” point of view: customers are adopting cloud in general at a much faster rate than we had expected them to. We no longer pitch cloud — our clients ask us about it. And, while cloud has been a boon for many, it’s important to remember that new technologies can come with a set of challenges that are shifting the telecom and IT markets in various ways.

Cloud Evolution

Cloud started on the email side with products like Office 365, then moved into phone systems with hosted technology; now we get questions about moving servers to the cloud. The transition from email to phone to infrastructure was rapid, and all three are still growing. From the transformation of backup (moving from tape to cloud) to the developments from giants like AWS, cloud is an ever-evolving beast. And we expect to see more in the way of private cloud infrastructure in the future.

Price Erosion Forces Change
Price erosion on connectivity and network deals is a big concern in the telecom world these days, and cloud offers the opportunity to pivot and go deeper with customers by offering more solutions. But it’s important to call out our experience here at SinglePoint in this regard: we have not felt the effects of price erosion the way we thought we would because the need for bandwidth has kept up with the erosion.

Where we were selling 10 Mbps, we now sell 100 Mbps. Where we were selling MPLS, we are now selling SD-WAN. While pricing does keep going down, market trends have pushed us to rethink our partnerships and our sales model as well as to adopt and use cloud as a product. It has forced our hand to move more into IT from the pure telecom sphere we used to work in, and we have made partnerships in order to conduct IT risk assessments and build upon private cloud architecture.

Cloud Changes the Market
There have been continual mergers and acquisitions across carriers, and as the big get bigger, we have fewer and fewer providers. Now, we see all these new providers coming up; not as carrier services, but as cloud companies and hosted phone companies. Where there used to be 50 CLECs, there are 100 new hosted phone companies and hundreds of new SD-WAN companies. As they come out of the woodwork, we see cloud changing what businesses are offering.

What’s in Store
In 2015, our core carrier products (internet, MPLS, voice services, etc.) were 90% of our sales. In 2016, 40% of our sales were non-traditional telecom products such as cloud systems, hosted contact management solutions, hosted phones, cloud-based architecture, and cellular. That huge shift tells us to expect more change, and to think ahead about our offerings.

Cloud Technology Provides Opportunity for Data Centers to Reorganize

Learn how cloud services are helping data centers reorganize.The days of major data center expansion are numbered. That’s what a recent survey by 451 Group’s Uptime Institute indicates may be the result of increasing traffic in the cloud. Companies are no longer stretched thin at their data centers, but are instead looking for ways to reorganize them now that the cloud is relieving storage space problems.

The survey included a variety of executives from traditional enterprise companies, including IT directors and facilities managers from retailers, banks, and manufacturers. Here are some of the key findings about how data centers are being impacted by increasing cloud software and storage investments:

The shrinking isn’t proportional: The expansion of cloud technology and investment in software in the cloud has resulted in companies feeling a bit of relief in their data centers. Storage options available in the cloud mean that IT departments may experience a little less push to keep expanding data storage. In most cases, however, this relief is not experienced at the same pace that cloud investment is growing.

Capacity planning is still a big investment: Almost half of the respondents responsible for facilities were working on upgrading infrastructure, cooling infrastructure, and improving power availability as part of their capacity planning strategy.

New data centers are still springing up: 30 percent of respondents were involved in plans to build new data centers.

Getting more out of existing data centers: While many companies are using third-party vendors to handle increasing demand for data storage, they are also focusing on improving support for existing on-site systems. An IT director is no longer seeking out a $50 million investment in a data center, but is instead asking for smaller amounts to improve the data center that’s there. In most cases, it’s turning out to be easier to get approval for investments in supporting and protecting the legacy technology.

IT teams work with various solutions to handle demand for storage: The survey revealed that 40 percent of respondents will work to consolidate servers in the next year and 33 percent will deploy additional workloads to the cloud. Thirty-three percent of respondents say they will update or upgrade their existing physical infrastructure.

While the cloud provides solutions for a wealth of processing and storage challenges, companies are recognizing the need for continued investment in on-site resources. Cloud storage provides much-needed relief for over-stretched data centers and allows IT teams to focus on improving support and security for their legacy systems.

Want to know more about how cloud is affecting the data center? Check out MicroCorp’s Data Center Market Report library for industry expertise.

To learn more about how the cloud is impacting the IT practices of individual companies like yours, talk with our specialists at MicroCorp, experts in cloud, connectivity, and communications.

Reasons Your Technology Will Never Be Exclusively in the Cloud

Cloud adoption is increasing, but your technology will never be cloud-exclusive.It’s a nice picture, imagining all your software needs handled by one neat cloud service. In that picture, your team works without the encumbrance of hardware and your updates never interrupt anyone’s processing. You pay your monthly support and subscriptions, but are never forced to face a board of directors in a tight, itchy suit to get approval for a monstrous new software implementation.

The picture is nice, but it’s likely a corporate fairy tale. There are plenty of reasons why the idea of a cloud-only software environment is probably never going to be a reality:

Getting access: One of the key barriers to an exclusively cloud environment is the need for employees to be able to access applications. Even if every application is housed in the cloud, you’ll still need a way to get to your software and a way for your IT team to govern which team members are authorized to access each application.

Lifecycles of certain products: If you work in an industry in which products have a short lifecycle, it may seem that it’s just a matter of time before everything is in the cloud. On the other hand, when you consider a product like insurance, for example, you can see that on-site systems will be necessary for a policy that was created decades ago in an on-premises mainframe.

Security: The security of cloud software is often debated, but some aspects of the security issue aren’t related to whether cloud technology can protect your data. Some security discussions are about the possession of information and its legal, physical and virtual location according to regulations. IT professionals in the financial, banking, and legal industries must tread carefully when they consider cloud-based applications. There’s good reason to believe that some industries will never embrace cloud solutions because it would compromise legality.

Lock-in: Enterprises are often wary of the idea of locking in with a particular provider of cloud services. Even though cloud technology comes with agility and flexibility, it still requires an investment of time and money to implement a new application. As a result, companies are reluctant to partner with a single cloud services provider in a way that may prevent them from adopting other software that they need to optimize productivity or reduce costs.

To determine how to implement the best possible mix of cloud and on-site software for your company, talk with our consultants at MicroCorp. We can help you identify the applications that are a good initial choice for cloud software to improve efficiency and reduce costs.